Acts 17:30 | Ignorance or Holiness

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If someone called me ignorant my initial reaction would be to throw up defensive shields and turn on my offensive arguments of war. However, the truth is that I am ignorant on a great many subjects. Yet to call someone ignorant does seem to be an insult in an age where information is literally at the fingertips of anyone with a connected device. At this point in life I may remain ignorant of a specific topic unless or until there is a need for me to be educated. This brings me to the book of Acts with one of the most interesting chapters where the apostle Paul makes a stop in Athens Greece. While on this stopover he is invited to speak to the Areopagus. The Areopagus was a location where a council of the most educated, likely wealthy, men and women of Athens gathered to “spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21 ESV) This crowd is not ignorant. These are the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers that helped to build the foundation of western society that I materially benefit from today. Yet Paul addresses them and tells them that they have been ignorant.

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:29-31 ESV

The old saying “Ignorance is bliss” highlights the fact that being unaware of the complexity and realities of this short life people blissfully unaware of the impending dangers that lay ahead. The fact that ignorance about a topic or event may eventually get one into trouble in no way slows the trouble or prevents those events from unfolding. Paul tells us all that while we like to make God into an image of our own choosing God has revealed himself and will no longer overlook such ignorance. A day of impact and judgment has been set when the time of mercy and grace will end. At that moment God will call men and women both alive and dead to account. Paul uses a word for ignorance here that is not a general kind of ignorance. These people of Athens he is speaking to are not ignorant people. Paul calls them a special kind of ignorant ἄγνοια (agnoia). This is an ignorance of divine and moral knowledge. While for their time these people of Athens may have known about the physical world they were ignorant about the moral implications and the dead spiritual conditions that shadowed their minds. Much like the modern world of today.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! Ephesians 4:17-20 ESV

Do not be ignorant Paul preaches to us today. Do not be ignorant of the moral and spiritual darkness of the land we live in. Repent, turn away, from that darkness. Flee from the selfish life of lust, sensuality, and greed. Do not be ignorant because God will hold against people a life impurity. Even more God has made the Bible, his revelations, available to a majority of people the world over. Ignorance is not an excuse because God will not overlook sin when that person has at their literal fingertips access to direct revelations about Christ and salvation.

Christ is the opposite of ignorance. He is the truth. He is the life. In him is found self-control, unselfish love, and a beating heart. This is what is learned when in Christ and how we become a new creation no longer darkened by ignorance of a former life.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct 1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV

Acts 4:12 | Focused Courage

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If asked to describe yourself in one word what word would be used? If others described you what word would be used? At a funeral today for a relative that I did not know as closely as I would have liked there were several words about this person’s life that stood out from those who knew the individual well. Determined, driven, lived for the spotlight were a few. Funerals are a sobering event and I am reminded of the biblical wisdom about funerals.

Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2 NLT

The life finished and the life complete is an event that will overtake all people rich or poor. So take to heart that maybe we waste precious time in vain pursuits, selfish ambitions, and pointless unforgiveness. The disciples understood the gravity of a funeral and that knowledge fueled a focused courage. When their lives were done the one word used to describe them was disciple. They embraced Christ the first born of all creation and truly lived the words they shared to all people rich and poor.

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 ESV

Salvation is an eternal treasure. Money is temporary. Salvation is final success. Liars gain for but a moment’s advantage. Salvation is a secured hope. Sexual lusts apart from God’s design secure lonely despair. Salvation serves the triumphant King of Kings. Politics serves a selfish movement that will eventually fail. The disciples grasped these truths and submitted to the one name under heaven that is in complete control. Jesus is the only name that saves.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Courage is what the disciples demonstrated when they told their jailers that they would obey Jesus and not the jailer. The author of Hebrews drawing from their example tells me a would be disciple to take courage in the name of Jesus. Set aside the politics, the sexual identity, and the selfish ambition that are all fleeting and temporary. Throw off those chains and look to the one name, the one identity, that brings Glory to God and salvation to those who have placed their hope upon his eternal salvation.

16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” Acts 4:16-17 ESV

I pray for courage, and wisdom to speak the name of Jesus. There is no other name or identity only Christian. There is no other group to be called into fellowship only fellowship as a Disciple. What will you dear reader do when confronted to speak no more this name? I pray you are running the race now in such way that the answer will be Christ only always.

Acts 3:6 | Divine Appointment

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Have you ever crossed paths with a person in a random setting or situation and that interaction changed your life forever? An introduction to a future spouse? Introductions to someone that later provided entry to a job opportunity? Introductions to someone that fixed a lifelong issue? Was this all fate or randomness?

God’s workings are a mystery. The people I have been drawn into relationships with are part of his design for my life. Some people have caused me pain but most people have been an encouragement and a blessing. In the same way I have caused pain to some and encouragement to others along the way.

Gladly we desire even expect God to give us blessings, but I have found what I desire from God rarely works out the way I expect. What I mean by that is that God’s gifts and God’s plan for my life is perfect even when I don’t understand or find it painful. Take for example Peter and John the beloved disciples making their way to the temple to worship when they are encounter a beggar who is clearly disabled. This beggar is doing his part asking for money, for charity, from the people headed to the temple. The worshipers need to do their part by providing money, charity, to the beggars they find on the way. The beggar’s life is not glamorous. Yet on this day his request for money is rejected for something greater.

5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:5-6 ESV

Americans collectively give more than a billion dollars a year to Charities. This is in addition to the billions the US government pays out in food, housing, and medical subsidies each year. We are generous with money because we have it in abundance. Many people want the government to provide all needs to all people (free education, free healthcare, free jobs) but the world and the government cannot offer what God has freely given to all who would receive it. This beggar has crossed paths with two men who give him something greater than charity and greater than any earthly government.

8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:8-10 ESV

God used Peter and John in a random interaction to change this beggar’s life for the better. What about this divine appointment from Peter and John’s perspective? This beggar now healed provided attention and an immediate platform for them to preach Christ to the temple worshipers. How great is that? Read what happened next.

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4 ESV

Peter and John were able to share Jesus to a large crowd many of whom believed in the message from God. But the disciples were also thrown into prison that night. Do you think Peter regretted the pain this beggar caused him? It was not the beggar’s fault but the outcome remained that a night in prison was the result this miraculous act.  Whatever hurt Peter and John received in their service to God seemed like nothing because they were excited, emboldened, and grateful for the opportunity to heal this beggar in spite of the night in prison.

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. Acts 4:18:22 ESV

Divine appointments from God are available each day. Will you be the beggar or the disciple today? Your path may have already crossed with someone that changed everything. That beggar who was healed was a catalyst that saved thousands of people. If God changed your life would God be glorified and would others be saved? Are your prayers for blessings from God for selfish reasons or that God would be glorified? What about the other side of the perspective? Do you want to serve God if there is a downside that the world would be so angry that it might cost you freedom or friends?

This life is short. Healing all the beggars or ending poverty is not God’s purpose at the moment. God’s purpose is to bring glory to himself that we his children might be saved. War, death, famine, evil, hunger, and sin will be removed when Christ returns. However right now God’s divine plan and purpose is to call sinners to repentance for eternal salvation. Would you slow down to engage with others for God’s glory and blessing?

Acts 2:42 | Public Faith

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The prevailing ethic of the day in regards to faith goes something like this… “My faith is my own and it is something I keep private.” In the public square, at work, at home, at school, in government, and out shopping there has been a push to scrub Christianity and promote secularism. When I bring of the topic of God, Church, or spiritual things in public or with friends and family there is an awkward moment before the conversation moves forward. The question then is a private and personal faith hidden from the public square or hidden from ones own family biblical? It is right to podcast a preacher and call that church? Is that acceptable to God?

I have learned something over the last 10 years that eluded me when I was younger on this topic. God is relational and in order to be in fellowship with him in a way that is meaningful in this life one must establish like minded relationship with others in the community. Jesus demonstrated this with discipleship. The early church lived this as they started a community of Christians. If you are a Christian then you must follow in those footsteps and live out the example that was set thousands of years ago.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV

While one could podcast sound Christian teaching all day long one cannot podcast “fellowship” or “breaking of bread”. One might be able to pray privately, as we all should, but without a church community one will not be able to devote themselves to “the prayers” that come with a corporate and community need. Living a life of private faith unannounced and without fellowship will be shallow and stale. God desires that we serve each other. That we disciple each other. That we are accountable to each other. That we eat in each other’s homes. That we share our lives with each other. This is what God has called us to. Do not let secularism quiet what should be a public acknowledgement of what Christ is doing in your life. If you never talk to your children about what God is doing and where he is at work what would they conclude? Is your faith real or imaginary?

13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV

It is amazing to me that two people on opposite ends of the earth may instantly share a common bond through the Holy Spirit in this life. One might be free the other a slave. They might have cultures that clash as much as Jews and Greeks yet in Christ they work as one sharing the same spirit.

Do not miss the dynamics, of discipleship, fellowship, prayers, and relationship, that God desires in every Christian’s life because you might be different than the people in the church. If you are drinking from the same spirit God will bind together one body for his glory. Don’t be afraid to integrate into a church family because everyone who is saved is a child of God and therefore brother and sister before the Father.

Acts 2:22 | Message and Mission

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If the message from God to humankind is the good news of the Gospel that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and then is now raised to life then the mission is that each of us at some point in our short lives would repent of sins and be baptized to receive the forgiveness and the relationship that Jesus has secured with his death, burial, and resurrection.

The message is trustworthy. Jesus did not come with mere words. He came with power and authority. Not power and authority like the kind that men crave. He came with power to submit to the Father. He came with power to be humble seeking the best for his creation. And he came with power to serve. The people recognized the authority of Jesus and his message but how?

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 ESV

What about his words made the message trustworthy and astonishing? If I came and told you that God has spoken to me… that I held the way to be reconciled to God you should rightly question my sanity and my trustworthiness. So what makes Jesus different that he is trustworthy?

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— Acts 2:22 ESV

God punctuated the words that Jesus spoke with “mighty works and wonders and signs”. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, controlled the elements, walked on water, and feed thousands. Peter when preaching the message above notes that the audience listening to him has seen these signs. They were there first hand. Paul when he was on trial notes that none of this was done in a corner but plainly visible across the countryside.

26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. Acts 26:26 ESV

While the first-hand witnesses are not available to attest and confirm what Jesus said and did these thousands of years later their words and their accounts have been written and captured unchanged. God does not need to proclaim a new message or new revelation because the one that Jesus lived is available in the written form. I can boldly tell others about the good news that Jesus died, was buried, and is now risen (without being called crazy) because I have the written first-hand account of what happened. If you don’t believe me then you also can read and make a judgment for yourself. The Bible is one of the most common printed books in history because the message is recognized as powerful and trustworthy.

The message of Jesus is still going. Thousands of years after the fact people know who he is and believe in his words as well as the mighty works and signs. So, what of the mission? What is the purpose of all this Jesus talk? What is it that Jesus sought to accomplish?

The mission is to make people happy? No, not the mission because people hated him so much they killed him as a common criminal. Hardship, depression, and sadness were left untouched for the moment.

The mission is a political order? No, not the mission. The disciples his own followers wanted him to kick Rome out of Jerusalem. Judas believed in that future so much that when he realized Jesus was not going to make it happen he sold Jesus out for money. Jesus left oppressive governments untouched for the moment.

The mission is social justice? No, not the mission. Jesus an innocent died unjustly at the hands of corruption. Jesus did not free slaves or reform criminal justice and he did not end hunger, sickness, or war. He left the curse, the result, of our sin upon the world untouched for the moment.

What then did Jesus accomplish? What is the mission? Peter answers that when he speaks at the dawn of the church relaying what God’s spirit put on his heart.

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:37-39 ESV

The message of Jesus is forgiveness and relationship with the creator God. The mission of Jesus is to see that we his children respond to what he accomplished. Repent, turn away, from rebellion and selfishness. Turn toward God acknowledging the authority that he holds because of his trustworthy words and actions and you will be given the gift of restoration and fellowship with him established through the Holy Spirit. Count on it as a promise for his mission will be accomplished and this moment of grace from God to all who accept him is on target.

Acts 1:4-5 |A Heart of Stone No More

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Religion is man striving and working to secure the favor of God. Live this kind of life, go to this kind of church, give money to the poor, follow the ten commandments… I could write for days all of the things people must do in the name of religion. Religion even carries a dark undertone when used to oppress those that do not follow the rules. It is an ugly business when one group to curry favor with the gods will crush another group who follows different rules for life and becomes offensive to those around them. Beyond this ugliness religion also has a major problem. How does one know when they have done enough or the sacrifice outweighs the guilt before god? I can’t even keep a new year resolution more than 60 seconds how do I know God will accept me and the life I have lived?

The answer is we don’t and so I hear from people all the time. “I hope my good is good enough” or “God knows I have done my best he will not hold it against me”. The problem is that these attitudes are subjective wishful thinking of people who have not spent enough time pondering this most important mystery.

God however knows that religion is not going to save anyone. We should understand that also.

In the days of old God set up an elaborate system of laws that the Nation state of Israel agreed to live under. These laws included religious observances that included ways to ask forgiveness for sins against God and neighbors. The people of Israel did not live up to the laws of that state very well and so after many generations of rebellion God dispersed the people all over the known world. This was a very violent dispersal in a very violent world. Yet even in this dark time God continued to reveal a plan and a promise that would impact the future we current live in.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

God through his prophet told the people that his plan was to give his people a new heart and a new spirit. This promise is fulfilled at the conclusion of the earthly ministry of Jesus. After Jesus was raised alive from the dead one of the last times he physically met with the disciples he asked them to wait what turned out to be a few short days for the promised Holy Spirit. The new spirit would be poured out generously to those who would chase after Christ.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 ESV

So what does this new Holy Spirit have to do with Religion? What does the Holy Spirit an a new heart have to do with our hope that we have been good enough? The Holy Spirit is the fruit of the salvation that Jesus secured on the Cross. Without the Christ and the Holy Spirit living in me the gulf between God and man stands impassable. I can’t be good enough. So, God destroys the hard heart of religion and frees us to stand before him has rightful children. We stand before our heavenly father in full rights of relationship. Our communion takes place through the ministry of this new spirit that God has poured out on those who call on his name in Jesus.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

The Holy Spirit is the promised heart and down payment of a guarantee. Not a hope not a work to be good but a guarantee that our relationship with God is permanently restored and one day, come soon Jesus my savior, I will be fully in possession of God’s presence in heaven to give him Glory for all eternity. Don’t live life with a cold religious doubt eating your soul. Submit now. Surrender now. Seek salvation now from Christ who has the authority to give you a new transformational heart of living breathing grace by way of the Holy Spirit.

What Government would Jesus Do?

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Palm Sunday is here leading up to the greatest holiday in all human history, Easter. Palm Sunday is the triumphant entry of the future King into Jerusalem just a week before he will die to provide salvation to those that would call up on his name.

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13 ESV

The people tried to make Jesus a king on multiple occasions. But as quickly as they would have crowned him King they turned on him and had him killed. Did Jesus not want to be King? What kind of government would God want Christians to champion? I became aware of politics as a young boy when Ronald Regan was president. I learned that Capitalism is good and Communism is bad. I was patriotic in all the right ways understanding what it meant to fight the evil communist like Rocky avenging the death of Apollo. I felt America was the greatest country in world. It is interesting how times change, how my view of the world has changed, and what things I value have changed. Today I understand that the world is messy and even the “good” guys are still sinners that practice evil things. Don’t misunderstand there is no country in this world I would rather live than America. I believe it is the greatest country and power ever raised up in a world that is cursed and broken. But America and the people who make up this country like anything else in this fallen world have problems and an ugly history.

When I started studying God’s word a verse that stuck out and confounded me was a verse about the early church because the verse did not describe capitalism, in fact it came across as the exact opposite.

44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47 ESV

This sounded an awful lot like socialism or redistributionism “as any had need”. Now going back to my roots of Capitalist America I am suspicious of Progressives who are desperate to redistribute and set things equal. “Equality” and “Fair Share” are mantras they live by. Progressives that I see on the news want to take from others and use the sword of government to enforce their view of equality. Yet here I see a distributive model before me in the early Church. Are Progressives right and is this early church and the ways of God a form of socialism? Is capitalism evil?

Progressives are quick to point out how much of a socialist Jesus seems to be. These arguments are always front and center condemning the unchristian behavior of anyone who might want to cut government spending in any way.

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So what did Jesus think of Government? Look as one might there are no descriptions of Jesus standing at the court of Rome demanding government aid to those in need. In fact, what one will find is that Jesus avoided government as much as possible. Look here at this conversation between Peter and Jesus when it came time to pay taxes.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:24-27 ESV

Jesus felt no obligation to pay taxes but “not to give offense” he wisely instructed Peter to take care of the bill. Who is the tax collected from? Not from those that run the government “the sons are free”. In all of his ministry Jesus does not care about the government outside of its role to provide structure and maintain order. Rome allowed Jesus to walk the streets to speak and carry on his ministry. He asked nothing of the government and he did not seek to reform it while on earth. Of course there is one major exception to his lack of interest in government… Jesus used the authority and sword of government to allow himself to be killed on a cross. This is the one function or area where government has a mandate from God. The one thing Government is permitted that is unique to government is killing people.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval. Romans 13:1-3 ESV

Feeding the poor and providing safety nets are not an expectation Jesus had of government. He looked to the Disciples and asked them what they would do about the hungry.

15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16 ESV

Jesus expected the church, his followers, to care for those in need and to help those who were broken. Jesus did not want his followers ask the Government to do it for them. Jesus wanted Christians to sell their own possessions and to work with their own hands in the community. His expectations are not that government feed the elderly. His expectations are that I leave the comfort of my own home and venture into the homes of those in need.

Jesus has no need for Government made by men because Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is not a socialist or a capitalist because he already owns everything and he will not be a tool of any man’s government no matter the form. Jesus is a servant to those who are part of his kingdom and he freely gives to those in need. It is out of that abundance that Christians should follow his lead and also give to those in need because all that we have is a result of his great mercy.

 

Acts 2: Repent and be Baptized!

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When I think about Acts Chapter 2 I am immediately drawn to verse 38 where Peter responds to the crowd’s question and concludes his first Holy Spirit directed sermon.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 ESV

The crowd was cut to their heart by his message, they realized the weight of their sin against their Creator, and they asked Peter what could be done. He responded with two actions that would result in a solution to the problem. Repent and be baptized. Repentance is first and it is a key to the heart being humbled and ready for God to work. Second is Baptism the first act of public obedience to celebrate what has happened in the heart already. Both work together and the model was established by John the Baptist when he was clearing the way for Jesus.

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4 ESV

So what is repentance and how does one get to that state? Repent the word Peter used in the Greek simply means to “change one’s mind”. It is an attitude and a fundamental reversal or 180 degree direction change in what one believes is acceptable or permissible for that individual. Peter is saying repent of your sins. Flee from them, turn from them, renounce them, and confess them before the Creator. The concept of repentance is woven all through the Old Testament and God has always looked for this change of heart in his people.

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:30-31 ESV

Paul warns that there are two types of grief in regard to sin. There is the type of grief that the world creates and leads to ruined lives and then there is a grief that comes from God himself and leads to repentance. What the Israelites did not have that Peter and the Apostles gained in Acts chapter 2 is the power of the Holy Spirit creating in God’s children a new heart and a new spirit.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV

Judas after betraying Jesus felt guilty about what he had done. However his grief was not based on godly grief as Paul describes but Judas took his grief in a direction that produced death namely that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). The grief that Paul talks about is a gift from God that leads to repentance. The crowd listening to Peter preach was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and they were ready to repent from their sins. Repentance then is possible because of God’s mercy and grace to us in this present time. Take advantage while you may.

4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:4-5 NLT

The second part of Peter’s answer to the question “what must we do” is to be baptized. Baptism is a mark of obedience that recognizes in public in the physical what has already occurred in the heart and in the spiritual.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 ESV

There are few elements that make up this act of obedience as it recognizes that repentance the old self the unrepentant self is dead going under the water. The new self the saved Holy Spirit directed self has come alive. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3) so baptism is symbolic of the new life gained through repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus.

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5 ESV

What had been done in the past prior to Acts Chapter 2 was all leading up to this moment when the promised Holy Spirit is unleashed creating this church age that we currently live in. This church age is directed by the Holy Spirit, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is possible because of the Holy Spirit living in God’s children. Have you repented? Have you been baptized? Now is the time to accept the Holy Spirit from Jesus and be baptized to proclaim what has happened in your heart.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 ESV

Acts 1: The Promise has Arrived!

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Acts is the second half of the Gospel of Luke and primarily concerned with the actions of the apostles many of whom were direct disciples of Jesus in the gospels. In the conclusion of Luke and in the start of Acts we see the disciples soon to be apostles waiting for something unknown and unimaginable.

3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:3-5 ESV

Jesus has spent time with them and convinced them of his resurrection. Jesus has restored Peter and given him charge of the church (John 21:17)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV

Jesus has been promising the Spirit to the disciples before his death and after the resurrection but God through his prophets has promised the Spirit to be in those who love him long in advance. While Jesus who is God in the flesh is powerful and amazing he is still finite in the sense that men are limited to time and space. The Holy Spirit will not be bound to those finite constraints. Jesus as always is allowing God’s prefect plan to unfold right in front of the disciples.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-28 ESV

God is going to do what we are unable to do ourselves and that is transform our hearts. He will put into us his Holy Spirit who will act on our hearts and transform our desires and hopes. In anticipation of this big day Jesus has asked the apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for Him to act.

Before Jesus ascends there is an interesting interaction recorded here in Acts. It is great example of how the disciples still did not understand the plans and power of Christ to build the eternal kingdom. Jesus has just told them to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem but their questions pick right up where they left off in their thinking before Jesus died.

 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8 ESV

Jesus are you now going to destroy the Romans and restore Israel to power? This is what the disciples think they really wanted from Jesus. It is why Judas betrayed Jesus (John 13:29). It is why Peter was ready to go to war when Jesus was taken (John 18:10-11). But that was not God’s plan. God’s plan was not to enrich Judas or send Peter to war. God’s plan is grace and mercy here and now. God’s plan is to save mankind and restore our relationship with Him. God’s plan is just as he said through Ezekiel hundreds of years before to change the heart of men.

Acts 1:8 is the gospel charge from Jesus to the disciples once the promised Holy Spirit arrives and the same charge stands true for the church of today. It is a promise that Luke uses here “you will be” in the same way that Luke recorded Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross “you will be”. Jesus makes a promise about God’s plans and passion for saving mankind.

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 ESV

 

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ESV

Will you be part of that promise to witness to anyone and everyone through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside?